It probably won’t be a surprise to you to know that the families of Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King (their children primarily) object to Lifetime’s original movie, Betty & Coretta, starring Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige, as the title characters (Angela plays Coretta and Mary plays Shabazz).
It seems to happen every time a film based on a real-life public figure goes into production.
It premieres tonight, Saturday, February 2 at 8/7c, less than 2 hours from the time of his post, and centers on the relationship between Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King, following how they continued on as single mothers, after their husbands (Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.) were assassinated.
In a Washington Post story yesterday, Ilyasah Shabazz and Rev. Bernice King express their frustrations over Lifetime and the film’s producers for not consulting with the children of both women whose lives are front and center in the film, and whose stories, after their husbands were killed, also included their children.
Both daughters strongly emphasize that the movie you will be watching tonight is fiction, and that it’s full of inaccuracies, fabrications and/or stretches of the truth, and they are bothered by that.
“My mother was not a weak, timid, insecure woman as portrayed,” Shabazz said. “She was regal, compassionate, strong, loving, beautiful, resilient and highly educated. That is why the Delta Sigma Theta sororities named academies all across this country after her, so others could be inspired how to turn triumph into tragedy.”
Those words came from Ilyasah Shabazz. And she gives more examples, even getting very specific about certain things that most of us may not notice.
As for Coretta Scott King inaccuracies, which the Washington Post piece says the King family is deeply-pained by…
One of the basic objections was how the film suggested that Coretta Scott King accepted the accusations that her husband was unfaithful to her based on what was supposedly heard on a tape sent by the FBI to the King home. This was not the case, as the King family has said for years.
There’s a longer explanation that follows which you can read in full at the Washington Post website.
But both families say that wanted to get involved in the making of the film, but Lifetime and the film’s producers rejected their involvement, arguing that permitting the children to be of any influence on the making of the film could have resulted in a work that protected the legacies of their mothers, I suppose instead of warts and all stories.
“If only Lifetime had consulted us, the sisters, maybe this would be more than fiction. I am not pointing my finger solely at them, but it must be our responsibility to ensure history is properly documented,” Shabazz said.
This comes up with almost every film that tells a story about a real-life public figure. I’m reminded of Tambay’s November post – On Recent Biopics Of Black Public Figures – Their Legal Rights, As Well As Ethical/Moral Obligations?. And it will likely always come up, and we’ll keep asking the questions about everything from filmmakers taking creative/artistic license when it comes to stories based on real-life characters, whether families of the characters (or the characters themselves, if they’re still alive) should be involved in the making of these films, if certain legacies should be protected no matter what, whether movies are instructional, or should be considered instructional since, some would argue, that, in a case like this, there are many who will watch the film and believe that everything that happens really did happen exactly as it does in the film, and not everyone will rush to pick up a book or get on the internet and do their own independent research/reading to find out more.
Read the Washington Post story HERE.
By the way, Mary J. Blige is the film’s producer. For all intents and purposes, the production started with her interest in it.
Malik Yoba plays Martin Luther King Jr, while, Lindsay Owen Pierre is playing Malcolm X in the movie.
Ruby Dee appears on-screen as a “historical witness” to narrate the story, “as someone familiar with the events of both their lives.“
Yves Simoneau directed the film, from a script penned by Shem Bitterman.
The film is co-produced by Larry Stanitsky, with Jaja Johnson and Polly Anthony executive producing.
It premieres tonight, Saturday, February 2 at 8/7c
It’s one of 3 movies headlining Lifetime’s Black History Month celebration; the other 2 being Twist of Faith, starring Toni Braxton, Mykelti Williamson and David Julian Hirsh; and Pastor Brown, with Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Keith David, Ernie Hudson, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Nicole Ari Parker, Rockmond Dunbar and Michael B. Jordan.